Citizen science confirms the rarity of fruit bat pollination of baobab (Adansonia digitata) flowers in southern Africa
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The iconic African baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) has “chiropterophilous” flowers that are adapted for pollination by fruit bats. Although bat pollination of baobabs has been documented in east and west Africa, it has not been confirmed in southern Africa where it has been suggested that hawk moths (Nephele comma) may also be involved in baobab pollination. We used a citizen science approach to monitor baobab tree and flower visitors from dusk till midnight at 23 individual baobab trees over 27 nights during the flowering seasons (November–December) of 2016 and 2017 in northern South Africa and southern Zimbabwe (about 1650 visitors). Insect visitors frequently visited baobab flowers, including hawk moths, but, with one exception in southeastern Zimbabwe, no fruit bats visited flowers. Citizen science enabled us to substantiate preliminary conclusions about the relative importance of moth versus bat pollination of baobabs in southern Africa, with important implications for resource management.
- RESEARCH: Taylor, P